The fact that Silicon Valley messaging startup Frankly made the seemingly odd choice of listing on the TSX Venture Exchange isn’t the only thing that differentiates it, says the company’s founder.
Steve Chung, CEO of Frankly was on BNN’s “Business Day” today to talk about how the company will stand out in the crowded mobile messaging space.
Chung says the company takes the opposite tack of the majority of messaging players in that its intention is not to drive users to its own platform, but to integrate chat functionality into existing business apps. He describes Frankly as an “enterprise messaging” play.
The company’s first deal its with Victoria’s Secret, where users of that iconic brand’s app now have the ability to chat, presumably, about the relative merits of thongs over V-Strings.
So why does a brand need chat embedded into its app when its loyalists or detractors can simply log onto Facebook or Twitter or leave comments on the corporate web site? Chung explains that Frankly is built around mobile use, not desktop conventions.
“For us it’s taking the amazing mobile interactivity and the immediacy and the formality of chat and giving you the ability to chat with somebody in real time,” he says. “It’s a very different experience than an asynchronous comment section”.
After selling (U.S.) $23-million in subscription receipts in November, Frankly is expected to begin trading on the TSX Venture this month following a reverse merger with a shell owned by Toronto’s JJR Private Capital. JJR CEO Ron Schmeichel convinced Chung that the novel idea of listing north of the border would allow him to raise money quickly, raise more of it, and not have to add another VC to its board.
Chung praised the TSXV as innovative.
“For all of the innovation that we have in Silicon Valley, the way we fund-raise hasn’t transformed in 30 years. It’s still a very venture capital-driven industry,” he said in recent interview. Chung thinks the TSX Venture Exchange is a “perfect platform for growth companies, like technology companies, who in some ways, have similar risk profiles as mining companies.”
Whether Frankly will draw interest from other small techs who feel like they are the 800th business plan on a Silicon Valley VCs desk will depend on how it does out of the gate. But a run in its shares just may convince a few that the Canada’s venture exchange could be reinvented as a more tech-oriented launching pad, instead of the home of scores of sub-ten cent mining holdovers. At first blush, it seems like an interesting match.